Written by Jerry Fackler, he is an emergency-management planner for the Capital Area Planning Council in Austin, Texas
Emergencies and disasters can occur anytime. Public safety agencies will be called upon to respond quickly to victims. For first responders to take prompt action, dispatchers must be available. PSAP personnel must not allow themselves to become victims during an emergency or disaster. It is imperative PSAP personnel have the necessary emergency supplies and procedures to sustain response activities in the PSAP for all hazards, including severe weather and technological and terrorist events, among others.
Terrorist events can include biological, chemical and radiological threats. A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can cause illness. Many agents must be inhaled, enter through a cut in the skin or be eaten to cause illness. Some biological agents do not cause infectious diseases; others can result in diseases that spread among people.
A chemical attack is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment.
A radiological threat or "dirty bomb" is the use of common explosives to spread radioactive materials over a targeted area. It is not a nuclear blast. The force of the explosion and radioactive contamination will be more localized. While the explosion will be obvious immediately, the radiatioin may not be detected until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on scene.
You must have emergency supplies on hand if it is determined you must shelter in place during an emergency or disaster. An emergency-supplies kit contains items essential to survival during catastrophic events. A PSAP may be without one or more of the essential elements for human life for an extended period of time. It is imperative your emergency-supplies kit be complete. Your kit should be adjusted to your own needs. Do not include candles, weapons, toxic chemicals or controlled drugs, unless prescribed by a physician.
Not only must PSAP personnel have the necessary supplies, they also must know what to do during an emergency that affects the PSAP. Plan ahead to ensure the proper actions are taken during an emergency. This planning should include forming emergent teams, dividing responsibilities among team members and planning for sheltering in place.
Form emergent teams that will shelter together. Pre-designate a small, interior meeting room with no or few windows for each emergent team to use as its shelter. The team should be able to shut and lock all windows, exterior doors and any other openings from the room to the outside of the building. It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room you select.
Each team member should put his or her emergency-supplies kit in the appropriate pre-designated meeting room or make its position known to all personnel, so that it can be taken to the meeting room when needed.
Upon being informed of an incident for which sheltering in place must occur, all personnel must be notified. Personnel must proceed to their team's pre-designated meeting rooms, shutting and locking all windows, exterior doors and other openings to the outside of the building. One team member should turn off the heating and air-conditioning systems as he or she proceeds to the team's meeting room. Assemble and take a roll of all personnel and visitors.
Depending on the type of hazard faced and if immediate action is needed, an appointed team member will close the building's vents and/or turn off natural gas utilities. Then he or she will return to the team's meeting place. If necessary for airborne agents, use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal all cracks around the doors and any vents into the room.
Listen to the radio or television for announcements and directions from public officials.
If any personnel are exposed to biological, chemical or radiological hazards, they must do the following before arriving at the team's meeting room:
- Remove all clothing, jewelry and any other items on their bodies
- Place all items in plastic bags
- Wash thoroughly
- Don clean clothing
- Proceed to the pre-designated team meeting room.
Preparing for emergencies will help ensure survival and continued effective response to emergencies. After all, it is the goal of everyone to be able to return to normal life with loved ones and friends.
Emergency-Supplies Kit Checklist
- All-hazards weather-alert radio with SAME technology
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- AM/FM/NOAA battery powered radio
- First aid supplies
- One complete change of clothes (long-sleeved shirt and long pants recommended)
- One pair of shoes (sneakers recommended)
- Disposable respirators
- Latex gloves
- Plastic bags or garbage bags and ties
- Duct tape and plastic sheeting (if practical)
- Five-gallon bucket and small garden hose (to drain hot-water heaters for drinking or sanitary use, if needed)
- Emergency "space" blanket (nylar)
Also include personal hygiene items such as:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Comb and/or brush
- Contact-lens supplies
- Moist towelettes
- Feminine supplies
- Eyeglasses (extra pair)
- Prescription medications (at least a three day supply)
- Non-prescription medications (pain relievers, stomach remedies, etc.)
Include enough non-perishable food to sustain you for at least one day (three meals). Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. The following items are suggested:
- Ready-to-eat canned meals, meats, fruits, and vegetables.
- High-energy foods (granola bars, energy bars, etc.)
- Canned juices
- Keep at least one gallon of water available, stored in plastic containers. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break.